Taylor Root UK Trustee Network: An interview with Sarai Jacob-Whelan

Author Sarah Ingwersen
maart 21, 2024

As part of our interview series for our Trustee Network, Taylor Root Partner, Sarah Ingwersen, recently spoke to Sarai Jacob-Whelan, Internal Counsel at Macquarie Asset Management, about being a Trustee for Peer UK Ltd.

What motivated you to become a Trustee of this not-for-profit organisation?

I was keen to become a Trustee for several reasons, namely, to build transferable professional skills, learn about a different organisation and give back to the community. However, all of this came into greater focus when I discovered an organisation that I was seriously passionate about. Peer is a free, contemporary art space in the heart of the community. I wanted to become a Trustee to develop my skills as a professional and I have found that I have gained an immense amount in return, both professionally and personally.

How does your experience as in-house counsel contribute to your effectiveness as a Trustee? 

When I joined the board of Peer, its then Chairperson summed up the role of the board as to “check, challenge and champion” the organisation. With that in mind, there are many parallels with this role and my responsibilities as Internal Counsel at Macquarie Asset Management. 

A large part of my professional role is to manage multiple stakeholders, assess risk, and guide my teams to make decisions on imperfect information. I bring pragmatism and use my experience to help them cut through noise.

These skills are directly transferable to my role as a Trustee. I have found the opportunity to apply them in a different context has strengthened them, bringing more creativity to my approach.   

Specific legal skills I bring to the board are an in-depth understanding of good governance and risk management. I have been able to highlight areas of risk for Peer, for example entering into a new lease. I have also highlighted where areas of governance could be improved, such as updating its articles of association. In addition, I have used my network to connect Peer with experts to help address challenges. My legal background also means I bring a different lens of strategic thinking and commercial awareness – thinking about these things differently to others on the board.

What do you perceive as the primary benefits of serving as a Trustee of a not-for-profit organisation from a personal and professional standpoint?

Serving on the board of Peer has given me a new perspective on the value of my skills. I have seen how flexible they can be and grown in confidence as a result. 

This has translated directly to my role at Macquarie Asset Management. For example, before going on maternity leave, I took on the role of Acting Head of Legal for our Private Credit business. I have had the opportunity to step outside of silos that are often present in much larger organisations, which has enabled me to test and push my skills. On a more personal level, I have learnt a huge amount about the art world and had exposure to some incredible artists, all while working with some wonderful people. It has been immensely rewarding.

How do you balance your duties as a Trustee with your other professional commitments?

As a new parent thinking about my return to work later in the year, this topic is very much front of mind. I’m lucky that Macquarie is supportive as an employer of Trustee roles, recognising the incredible benefits they offer professionals and the importance of giving back to the communities in which we operate. My biggest piece of advice is to serve an organisation that you are passionate about. If you are truly excited about the mission, contributing won’t feel like work and will be something you enjoy doing in your downtime. 

What advice would you give to other in-house counsel considering becoming Trustees of not-for-profit organisations?

I would caution against being too literal about your skills, or underestimating how impactful skills like understanding good governance, stakeholder management and flexibility in communication styles can be. The board is an important sounding board, and having a range of professional skills and views can be a CEO’s and management team’s best secret weapon.

If you are interested in hearing more about Peer UK Ltd please get in touch with Sarai Jacob-Whelan.

If you are interested in a Trustee role or are looking to hire a Trustee position, please get in touch with Sarah Ingwersen to find out more.

If you would like to join our Trustee network, find out more here

We want to reiterate that this is not a paid service and forms part of our referral programme, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

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